Bangladesh has recently completed 50 years of independence. From participating in the freedom struggle as a youngster, I have had the privilege of observing many things in the present 21st century. The war-torn Bangladesh of 1971 is becoming a middle-income country. Bangladesh, known as a ‘bottomless basket’, is now a ‘role model of development’ in the world. Sonar Bangla is advancing at an unstoppable pace in development and progress under the worthy leadership of Bangabandhu’s daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. There are challenges along the way, but they can be overcome. Economists define ‘development’ as a process of economic growth. But generally any positive change is considered development. Economic growth, education, health, gender equality, good governance, independence, empowerment, social inclusion etc. are related to development concepts. Development is a process which simultaneously refers to positive changes in social, political, cultural etc. along with economic growth, infrastructural change, environmental improvement.
We are witnessing development or positive change in the context of Bangladesh. Especially Padma Bridge, Metrorail, 100% Electrification, ICT, Education, Health have made a lot of progress. Among the economic development activities, many infrastructure constructions are worth mentioning. For example: Tunnel in Karnaphuli River, Third Payra Port, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant etc. Apart from this, increase in per capita income of people, increase in average life expectancy, increase in national income, empowerment of women is possible due to the economic development of the country. The recent development of Bangladesh has caught the attention of the world. Putting an end to long complications, the construction of a long bridge across Pramatta Padma has become a major example of development in recent times. Padma Bridge is a symbol of our glory and capability. It can be thought that when the donor organizations turned away from financing this project, our Prime Minister announced with full confidence that we will build a bridge across the Padma with our own money! He has shown that. On June 25, 2022, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated our long dream Padma Bridge. As the construction of this huge bridge is a pride for Bangladesh, this diverse bridge has also been placed on the world map.
The Dhaka Elevated Expressway is one of the long-term steps taken by the current government to reduce the suffering in road transport. The expressway was inaugurated recently. 11.5 km road from Airport to Farmgate has been opened for use. Farmgate can be reached from the airport in just 10 minutes. Long term or sustainable development concept was present in Bangladesh from its birth. In 1972, under the guidance and supervision of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Constitution of Bangladesh has pledged fundamental rights, human rights, human dignity and values. The constitution of Bangladesh has given importance to education, health, women empowerment, local government system, world peace, mutual relations etc. After the brutal assassination of the father of the nation in 1975, the leader Sheikh Hasina came to Bangladesh to establish democracy and later in 2009 started the progress of development. Formed the government with the support of the people in the 2008 elections and has already completed the first and second term. During this important period there has been unprecedented development in all sectors of the economy. Bangladesh has shown considerable success in achieving the ‘Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 2000’ announced by the United Nations. Efforts are also being made to achieve the SDGs.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the successful shaper of modern digital Bangladesh, has added inclusive development thinking and unique innovative initiatives to her development philosophy. In this process, he gave equal importance to economic, social and environmental development. The head of the government has taken special initiatives and programs to include the backward poor people in the development program and reach their benefits and improve their quality of life.
The current government has given special importance to the public education and health sectors. Primary education was made universal during this government by introducing stipends for poor students along with distribution of free books at primary and secondary levels. About 14,200 community clinics have been established to provide health care to marginalized rural communities. It has reduced infant and maternal mortality. The average life expectancy of people has increased. Bangladesh has been very successful in proper management and vaccination during Corona. Special initiatives have also been taken for the development of infrastructure and social institutions, including the construction of rural roads to include marginalized communities in the mainstream of development. A ‘Union Digital Centre’ has been established in every union to provide digital services; The benefits of which we are getting.
Our Gross Domestic Product or GDP growth is 7.25%. People’s purchasing power has increased. Per capita income has also increased. Currently, the per capita income of the people of the country is 2 thousand 824 US dollars. It is true that there is a deficit in foreign trade due to war and crisis in international politics. People are facing problems due to inflation and rising commodity prices due to various reasons. The appreciation of the dollar is also affecting various sectors. But the government is trying to overcome it. The government has now taken various steps focusing on building Smart Bangladesh. On December 12, 2008, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the creation of Digital Bangladesh as the cornerstone of ‘Vision 2021’. Currently, the government’s ‘Digital Bangladesh’ is visible. The use of internet and technology has increased at a significant rate almost everywhere including education, health care, business. With the benefit of digital Bangladesh, people’s access to information, services, daily life and numerous tasks have become easier. The current government also promised to build digital Bangladesh in its 2018 election manifesto, which we are witnessing in reality. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in the program held on the occasion of ‘Digital Bangladesh Day-2022’, the country will be transformed from digital to ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by 2041. The government is working to successfully implement the four pillars of building ‘Smart Bangladesh’ Smart Citizen, Smart Economy, Smart Government and Smart Society. To transform Bangladesh into a developed and prosperous country, Sheikh Hasina mentioned that the young generation should be prepared as soldiers of 2041, as smart citizens. They will take this announcement as one of the pledges in the upcoming elections.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is very optimistic about our youth. He wants to make unprecedented progress in Bangladesh with the power of youth. Bangladesh has got the status of developing country. Looking forward to a better ‘Smart Bangladesh’ now. We are also hopeful that the moment will come. We can see. That is why the best use of youth is very important.
A large part of the population of Bangladesh today is teenagers, which is why the population of Bangladesh is called the youth dividend. According to UNDP’s Asia Pacific Human Development Report, 49% of people in Bangladesh are aged 24 or below. That is, 49% of the population is young in age. Working population in the country is 10 crore 56 lakh. 66% of total population is working. These young people are the shapers of future Bangladesh. Prime Minister-announced ‘Smart Bangladesh’ Implementation Kandari. This young population should be kept healthy. But there is concern, whether we can guide the youth in the right direction or not! Because the youth are going astray due to the aggression of tobacco and drugs.
Currently, the situation of drug addiction in Bangladesh is quite alarming. Drugs act as one of the main catalysts behind almost all crimes including social degradation. According to information in the media, about one crore people are addicted to drugs in the country, of which about 90% are young people. On the other hand, smoking has emerged as a major cause of drug addiction. Smoking is the gateway to the realm of drugs. According to a study, 98 percent of drug addicts are smokers and 60 percent of them are involved in various crimes and terrorism. People who take drugs first get used to smoking. Later, he became addicted to various deadly drugs including ganja, yaba, phensidyl, lead, heroin, cocaine. Today, many teenagers start smoking at the instigation of their friends and gradually a large number of them get involved in drug use and various crimes. Multinational cigarette companies are fueling this bad situation among teenagers. It can be said that the fire is pouring ghee! Cigarette companies are creating smoking areas in various restaurants in the city (which are frequented by teenagers). Starting from smoking, various drugs are consumed while sitting. Social norms and values are rising from the youth. Besides, people who come to spend enjoyable time with their families in these places are suffering from serious health damage. The main objective of the cigarette company is to expand the business by creating a smoking arena. According to Voice’s research, tobacco companies give cash benefits ranging from Tk 4 to Tk 15 lakh to the restaurant owner depending on the location of these ‘smoking zones’. Advertising materials of tobacco companies are displayed in these zones. It is a matter of concern that the use of e-cigarettes, vape and heat tobacco products is increasing in the country due to the false propaganda and enticement activities of cigarette companies. They are bringing forward e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarettes and less harmful than regular cigarettes. Basically, e-cigarettes are 10 times more harmful than regular cigarettes. Most people (especially young people) do not know the harmful side of e-cigarettes. Lack of specific laws, policies and lack of awareness in the country to control e-cigarettes is one of the reasons for the significant increase in the use of these deadly drugs among people. It is now a big task to diagnose and cure those who are currently addicted to drugs, or new addicts will be created through them. There is an anti-drug and anti-tobacco law, the Prime Minister has announced to eradicate tobacco from the country by 2040. He also adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against drugs. These steps are to maintain the infrastructure to guide the developing Bangladesh in the right direction. That is to protect the youth, towards which he is always active.
Therefore, companies’ efforts to make young people long-term consumers of tobacco must be stopped. To implement Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Sonar Bangla and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ‘Smart Bangladesh’, prevention of drug addiction must be given utmost importance. So it is everyone’s responsibility to protect the next generation. In this case, everyone should be active. It cannot be desired by any conscious, conscientious person that children-teenagers-youth become blue due to drug addiction through smoking and become a burden to the family, society and the state.
Author: Bir Muktijoddha (Ekushey Medalist Shabda Sainik, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra). Founder President, Narcotics and Addiction Prevention Society (MANS)